The Model Railway Club

The Model Railway Club

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Our Layouts

The Club builds and operates layouts in a variety of scales. We have five touring layouts currently, a 2mm scale layout, Copenhagen Fields, which is based on our local railway - the lines out of Kings Cross and a 7mm scale (O gauge) layout called Happisburgh Goods representing a yard on the Norfolk coast with sugar refinery. Three more recent layouts are a 3.5mm scale (HO) layout, "Putnam Division" following American practice, an EM gauge layout "Empire Mills", and "Lacey Dale" an N gauge layout set in the peak disctrict.  

"Minories GN", whilst privately owned by members, is also regularly seen at exhibitions around the country representing the Club.

A new layout "Ingatestone" (in OO gauge, representing the current period) which is based on the station in Essex is under construction.

Work continues even on 'completed' layouts. Layout and project leaders welcome new faces, whether novices or highly skilled - one member even contributes buildings from the Far East to Copenhagen Fields! Most layouts have "working sessions" on one evening or two Sundays a month as well as the regular Thursday night meetings. Please contact us for more details.

Orchard Wharf

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Above: smartphone cameras can be cruel! Old and new traction alike will need more attention before it can grace the layout.

EM gauge operations intensify

Orchard Wharf is our new EM gauge project. We’ve taken a very different tack to that of Empire Mills, the layout's predecessor. What we wanted this time was something the offered scope for more intense operation without a great increase in size. Empire Mills was two four-foot layout boards and one four-foot fiddle yard; for Orchard Wharf we've got fiddle yards at both ends, though the layout extends over these boards too so there’s a lot more track length. There’s a low and a high level; the low level is a network of tracks serving the wharf that gives the layout its name and the high level is a main line running immediately behind the wharf from western to eastern high-level fiddleyards and back. An incline connects the high level to the low level; freights descend this to gain access not only to the wharf but to yards further east represented by the low-level eastern fiddleyard.

The team felt that in the space available to build and operate the layout we would struggle to have more than a single engine operating the sidings in the dockside yard, so we added the main line which is double track (though the up line is closed for maintenance at the eastern end, forcing single-line working over this section) and includes a loop on the down line. In this way we can keep two operators busy and run a wider range of stock. We also made space for a simple factory siding off the high level route on the down side. Accessing this will usually involve quite a lot of manoeuvres, giving the high level operator plenty to do and, we sincerely hope, not boring our intended audiences.


Empire Mills was set in Cornwall, in an entirely rural landscape with just three structures. For Orchard Wharf we turn to the soot and grit of a worn, neglected and much-maligned part of our own city, taking inspiration from the maze of railway routes criss-crossing London’s East End. Take a look at a local Ordnance Survey map from the turn of the last century and you will be forgiven for thinking the cartographers have decided to decorate it extensively with sets of long, parallel, lines that swell out into delicately curved fans and grids. Railways were everywhere, serving the extensive industry and the sprawling London dock estate. The Port of London Authority (PLA) was the owner of all the important London docks. It operated a considerable mileage of rail traffic, much of which never left its land, but the railways not only served the PLA’s warehouses but also had their own much more modest arrangements which could be found along the Thames and its tributaries such as Bow Creek, the mouth of the River Lea.

It is in Blackwall, the area of the creek mouth, that we have placed our layout. Our main line represents an imaginary diversion of the real route to North Woolwich at the Eastern end of the Royal Docks, a busy line operated by the Great Eastern Railway that had a regular commuter service up to the 1960s and also conveyed a great range of goods in both directions.

Era and services

London's docks operated up to the early 1970s. The volume of rail traffic from the docks and the numerous nearby industries declined as the shipping container made its mark on global shipping. We've pegged Orchard Wharf at 1960, but strategies such as having an interchangeable backscene design mean we can move that date backwards and forwards a little, should we decide to do so, without losing fidelity.

1960 is a good date, because, being a few years after the first batches of diesel locomotives were delivered under the British Transport Commission’s 1955 modernisation plan, it allows us a good range of motive power from the ex-Great Eastern/LNER N7s – workhorses of the North and East London commuter corridors – to the notoriously poorly-constructed and unreliable D8400 class type 1 diesel-electrics. Freight will range from block trains of coal and imported fruit through oil, tar and scrap metal, to finished machinery for shipment from our wharf. Passenger services, modelled on those of the North Woolwich branch, will use a mix of former GE/LNER Gresley teak-bodied compartment stock (still remembered by some as being excruciatingly cramped) through their BR-built steel-bodied successors to zippy new multiple units commissioned under the modernisation programme.


At the time of writing the layout is at the early track-building stage and will be on display, under construction, at the 2018 London Festival of Railway Modelling on Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 March. Come and see us there!

Get involved

We welcome club members to join the team and contribute their skills, or learn some new ones, at this early stage in the layout’s development. Work is just starting on the track, and electrics and scenery have yet to be started. Speak to us on the stand, come along to Keen House on a Thursday evening and speak to Ben Weiner or John Jesson, or contact us via the website.

Bow Junction

Original print 1
Bow Junction is the Model Railway Club's new 7mm scale layout to be constructed in finescale Scale 7* gauge. After much research and planning new members are welcome to join the group with the opportunity to be there at the start of this new venture. The layout will be true to scale and depict a historic important slice of London around 1900.Plan of location

Bow Junction shows the North London Railway’s junction from Bow Road following the line towards Poplar and the Docks and the diverging line to Fenchurch Street. In the midst of this unique junction is the North London Railway’s locomotive works, the erecting shop, forge and workshops, “Bow Works”.


Copenhagen Fields


2mm Finescale; 1:152; 9.42 mm gauge

Back in 1983 we started to plan and build a new layout to succeed the buccolic ‘Chiltern Green and Luton Hoo’ - we set our sights a little to the north of Keen House and based the new project on the approaches to King’s Cross, with all the complications inherent to engineering the real railway into a capital city.   The site has more complexity in the design of the railway than could ever be conceived by someone inventing a model railway plan. It was to be a railway, in an ‘area of outstanding unnatural beauty’ fully embedded within its scenic context, but the only green field would be a small park on top of the curiously named Copenhagen Tunnel. There were many reasons for choosing to model such an urban scene: one of the most pressing was that accurate models of cities are very rare, so we thought the challenge would be worth taking. What we had not quite appreciated was how much work even the beginning part of the project was going to involve!


Happisburgh Goods

Hap Goods 220x130The Great Eastern Railway had planned to build a line from North Walsham to Happisburgh (pronounced Haysboro) on the Norfolk coast, then south east towards Great Yarmouth. Unfortunately the line never got built but for the purposes of our model we have assumed that it did.


HO - Putnam Division

Puttnam 220x130

Putnam is The Model Railway Club's American based layout, originally inspired by the Putnam branch of the New York Central Railroad, which ran north from New York. This line was single track and mostly ran through a semi-rural landscape of small towns and small farms. The layout is HO scale (1:87) with control via DCC. It is a work in progress, designed to grow gradually. The yard has been exhibited several times as an end-to-end layout, but we have recently completed work to turn it into an oval and can now run much longer trains. Work is under way to add scenery to the new boards. The big curve at the right hand end is the first to be tackled and, in contrast to the semi-urban nature of the main yard, will be rural in nature featuring a considerable number of hand-made trees.

We try to operate the trains with New York Central locomotives, both steam and diesel as befits a model set loosely around 1950, although locomotives from other railroads are used at times. Rolling stock represents the huge number of different railroads that existed at the time.

Work continues on the layout, including making the fiddle yard wider to enable a wider variety of trains to be run at exhibitions.


Lacey Dale

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‘Lacey Dale’ is The Model Railway Club's new N gauge layout, inspired by the viaduct and surroundings of Monsal Dale in the Peak District of Derbyshire with the Midland main line to Manchester. The period depicted is from mid 1950s to mid 1960s. Although this part of the railway was double track, to provide greater interest we have added long lie by sidings on both 'up' and 'down' lines, as provided a few miles away at Darley Dale. These enable faster trains to overtake the slower freights, and sometimes, local passenger trains.


Empire Mills


From 2 June 2018, Empire Mills has a new home. We wish the layout well under its new management!

You can read about the EM Gauge team's new project Orchard Wharf here.


empire mills thumbEmpire Mills is the Model Railway Club's 4mm scale EM gauge layout. The basic layout depicts a small, freight-only branch line. The layout boards include lift-out modules carrying track and scenery which can be swapped to depict different industries, time periods and locations.

The layout has featured at two of the "London Festival of Railway Modelling" exhibitions at Alexandra Place configured to show the 'Empire Mills' china clay works somewhere close to St Austell in Cornwall in the late 1960s to early 1970s and British Railways Western Region diesel-hydraulics were much in evidence. Other options that have been considered include 'Empire Lane Pit', a small coal mine that might be in Somerset, or Northumberland, or the Midlands, 'Empire exchange sidings', depicting the transhipment area between a narrow gauge network and the standard gauge network, and 'Empire Lines', the exchange point between a War Department and the national rail network in the Second World War – with the lift out sections the possibilities are almost endless for industries, time periods and locations.

Empire Mills from the trackside

The layout is wired to run with either conventional DC or DCC stock. Anyone interested in joining the Empire project should contact us via the website, or come along to Keen House on a Thursday evening and ask for Ben or Tom.

We've just finished working on the wiring of a new control panel. Our next show will be:

  • Trainwest - 14th / 15th April 2018

Plus we are running at Keen House on a number of Thursday evenings - see 'Whats On' for details.




Ingatestone May 16 2Ingatestone 00 represents a welcome return to 00 scale modelling at The Model Railway Club. This new layout was conceived as a project just over a year ago and is now moving from concept to the physical reality of construction The layout will be 20ft x 10ft in its scenic run, and is a representation of the station and countryside around Ingatestone in Essex, on the former Great Eastern main line to Norwich. The time frame is contemporary, 2014/15, but we do welcome all 00 modellers to run trains on our tracks, as we will be wired for both DC and digital (DCC).



Detail7This layout is unashamedly based on one of the classic layout plans, "Minories" by the late Cyril Freezer – a long-time MRC member. The concept was to show that a busy terminus station could be modelled in a limited space using the proprietary track available at the time. Our model is an imagined extension of the Moorgate "Widened Lines" further into the City of London to a three platform terminus. The period modelled is late 1960s to early 1970s, prior to the electrification of the suburban lines from King's Cross and St Pancras, with a heavily peaked service conveying commuters between Hertford, Hatfield and Luton and the city. Whilst the tight curves and steep inclines of the tunnels around King's Cross limited the size of coaches and length of trains, there was a variety of motive power in use.